The “reobligation” of the grant, which was awarded last year, still requires approval from the county, but officials are confident that the transfer of the funds to another project within the township will be passed by the county freeholders.
“They were always in favor of us acquiring this park, and we’ve been appreciative of that,” said Committeeman Kevin Rooney, who also sits on the Russell Farms Advisory Committee. “The sooner we can get this park open the better.”
The township closed the $3.1 million purchase of the park last year, using funds collected through the municipal open space fund as well as a grant from the county.
The site has already seen a facelift in the year since the deal was closed. In April, a donation of six trees was planted in a row on the field. If the county approves the transfer of the matching grant, officials intend to use the money to push through on the first of two stages of improvements to the property.
Rooney said that parts of the plan closely resemble the grant proposal originally approved by the county for Community Park, including a walking path around the perimeter of the site, fencing replacements and dog walking stations dispensing disposable bags for waste.
The grant money would also cover the installation of trees to line the park's driveway, upgrades to a pump house on the site to provide electricity for an irrigation system, and a gazebo, should funds remain after the other planned features.
“We want to take it through two basic stages; the grant money will take us through stage one,” said Committeeman Brian Scanlan, who also sits on the advisory committee for the park.
Long-term goals in discussion for the park include a sensory garden, which Scanlan said would be a 2,500-3,000 square-foot plot featuring a variety of plants, and a small orchard at the front of the site.
According to Rooney, the committee is close to finding a donor to provide trees for the orchard. The area surrounding the site was historically home to apple and peach groves, and the committee is seeking to put the grove to a practical contemporary use.
“We would put some smaller trees in there, get them to a higher caliber, and replace trees that we lost during Irene and Sandy,” Scanlan said.
The township would be able to harvest the trees to be relocated to other public lands, he said.
The improvements come as part of a four-year process to open a park at the site, and Scanlan said that the goal of a passive recreation area has remained unchanged since the township began looking toward the site’s acquisition in 2009.
“I’d like it to fulfill the vision we had when we first applied for the grant money [to purchase the property] in 2009,” he said, “which was that it would be a passive recreation area that Wyckoff residents of all ages can enjoy.”